How To!

How To Write the Perfect Breakup Song with Ben Folds

The master songwriter helps a listener express his feelings.

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About the Show

What if Dear Abby were an investigative reporter? Each week, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charles Duhigg (The Power of Habit) takes on listeners’ toughest problems and, with the help of experts, finds the answers to questions you’ve always wanted to ask but couldn’t. Until now.

Do you have a problem that needs solving? Have you found the advice on our podcast helpful? Send us a note at howto@slate.com or leave us a voicemail at 646-495-4001 and we might play it on the air.

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Episode Notes

Lorenzo is a dental student with big dreams—of becoming a rock star. Lorenzo plays a mean guitar at open mic night, but there’s one thing holding him back: He doesn’t know how to write his own songs. In this episode of How To!, we bring in master songwriter Ben Folds, former frontman of Ben Folds Five, and author of A Dream About Lightning Bugs: A Life of Music and Cheap Lessons. Many of those lessons are about how anyone can unlock their creativity. Ben breaks down his own music, and tinkers with Lorenzo’s attempt at writing a break-up song. He tells him to embrace cliché, then slip in something unexpected. Also, switch the first lyric with the second. Will it work?

Do you have a problem that needs a creative solution? Send us a note at howto@slate.com.

Podcast production by Derek John and Rachael Allen.